By Barry Janoff, Executive Editor
February 7, 2011: Determining which of the more than 55 ads that aired on Fox during or around Super Bowl XLV was the favorite among viewers is a lot like picking a favorite chili recipe: Sometimes flavor matters most, sometimes ingredients matter and sometimes its presentation.
The varying degree of likes and dislikes among the 55-plus spots is not surprising considering that the game between the Green Bay Packers and Pittsburgh Steelers attracted a record average of 111 million viewers — topping the 106.5 million at Super Bowl XLIV last year, which in turn topped the 106 million who watched the series finales of M*A*S*H back in 1983 — according to Fox and the NFL.
Numerous ad meters that were collecting information during and since the game ended are now offering diverse opinions as to which ad was most popular and which among the companies that paid upward of $3 million for a 30-second slot got the most ROI. Overall, however, it appears the the winner was Volkswagen's "The Force," supporting its 2012 Passat, which starred a pint-size Darth Vader who is unsuccessful at using his powers until aided by his dad's remote starter.
According the the USA Today Ad Meter, generally regarded as the most accurate and respected among the dozens of Super Bowl ad-related polls, viewers were all about the dogs. Tied for first was the Bud Light spot about a guy who multi-tasks dog walking and throwing a party and the consumer-generated spot for PepsiCo brand Doritos featuring a guy who pays a price for teasing his girlfriend's Pug.
Volkswagen's "The Force" was third among USA Today participants and was among the top five most popular ads with many polls taken elsewhere.
USA Today's Ad Meter top five also included two other consumer-generated ads from PepsiCo brands: Doritos' "House Sitting" (a negligent house sitter brings dead plants and a deceased grandfather back to life) and Pepsi Max's "Love Hurts," a tome about a wife who replaces her husband's high-calorie goodies with the zero calorie drink.
The bottom five at USA Today were a Stella Artois spot from Anheuser-Busch, Mini Cooper's "Cram It in the Boot," a GoDaddy.com spot with Danica Patrick and Jillian Michaels and two Hyundai spots.
In addition to Patrick and Michaels, most of the celebrity-driven commercials did not score with the USA Today Ad Meter. The Snickers spot with Richard Lewis and Rosanne Barr was No. 17, but its older sibling with Betty White that aired during Super Bowl XLIV was either No. 1 or a top five on most lists last year and also jump-started White's acting career.
Kim Kardashian wearing little more than her workout sneakers was No. 48 for Skechers, Lipton Brisk with an animated version of rapper Eminem was No. 50, Go Daddy's spot with new spokeswoman Joan Rivers was No. 52, a Best Buy spot with Ozzy and Sharon Osbourne and teen idol Justin Bieber was No. 53, a Glee-filled Cruze spot for Chevrolet was No. 54 and Adrian Brody singing for Stella Artois was No. 57.
• According to numbers generated by Hulu.com, the "most liked ads" were Volkswagen's "The Force," Bridgestone's "Carma" (about a driver whose life is saved by the beaver whose life he had previously saved) and Volkswagen's "Black Beetle," a high-energy spot played out to the song "Black Betty."
The "most viewed" ads at Hulu.com were Dorito's "Pug Attack," VW's "The Force" and "Hack Job" from Bud Light (in which a faux kitchen remodeling show upgrades one home simply by adding a six-pack of beer). That latter spot came in No. 13 on the USA Today Ad Meter.
Both men and women at Hulu.com found "The Force" and "Carma" to be at the top of their favorite list. But women chose the NFL's "Sitcoms" among their top three (a series of clips from such classic TV shows as Happy Days, Seinfeld, The Dukes of Hazard and The Simpsons showing actual — but remodeled — footage in which characters seemingly prepare to watch football). Men visiting Hulu.com, however, made the trailer for the upcoming Captain America: The First Avenger from Paramount as their third favorite spot.
* At AdBowl.com, launched 11 years ago by Cleveland-based marketing firm McKee Wallwork, more than 11,000 participants rated as the top five (in order): VW's "The Force," Bridgestone's "Carma," Doritos' "House Sitting," the NFL's "Sitcoms" and VW's "Black Beetle."
• A survey conducted by marketing and research firm HCD Research, Flemington, NJ, listed the top five as: Bridgestone's "Carma," the NFL's "Sitcoms"," "Dog Party" from Bud Light, VW's "The Force" and Dorito's "Pug Attack."
• Salt Lake CIty marketing firm Richter7 polled its employees to come up with its top spots: VW's "The Force," which was named 'most valuable ad; and Doritos' "Pug Attack" and "The Best Part."
• TiVo listed it's top five ads as Snicker's "Logging" with Richard Lewis and Roseanne Barr (reprising the role made famous by Betty White during Super Bowl XLIV), Best Buy's "Bieber and Ozzy" (with Ozzy, Sharon and Justin), Pepsi Max's "Love Hurts," VW's "The Force" and Doritos' "The Best Part," a consumer-generated spot in which a man goes to extremes to get the "cheese dust" let behind when the product itself is eaten. That spot was No. 14 at USA Today.
There were no beer ads in the TiVo Top Ten, not a good ROI for Anheuser-Busch, which pays for broadcast exclusivity in the category. TiVo said its ranking is determined "through a calculation that takes in viewership and how many times people rewind their DVRs to watch the ad."
• At the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University, Evanston, Ill., the annual Kellogg School Super Bowl Advertising Review "evaluates ads based on strategic execution and the potential to build brands" based on attention, distinction, positioning, linkage, amplification and net equity. The top brands, which all received an 'A" grade, were Volkswagen, Chrysler, Doritos, E*Trade, Mini Cooper and Bridgestone.
The Kellogg bottom five, which received D's, were Kia, Go Daddy, Hyundai, HomeAway and Lipton Brisk, which was the only brand to get an "F."
• A poll taken by Fox Sports ended up with these as the ten worst commercials to air on Fox during Super Bowl XLV: "Swashbucklers" from Bud Light, Coca-Cola's "Dragon Fantasy Land," Go Daddy with Joan Rivers, Kia's "Epic Ride," a Pepsi Max spot about a can launcher, the animated Lipton Brisk spot with Eminem, Stella Artois, Motorola's Xoom riff on the iconic Apple "1984" spot and sweaty Kim Kardashian for Skechers.
• There was a gridlock of car commercials during the game. Edmunds.com, a leading online resource for automotive information, said that site traffic for Chrysler, Volkswagen and Chevrolet "saw the most significant spikes" after their ads ran during Super Bowl XLV. Traffic for the Chrysler brand overall shot up 267% on Edmunds.com in the hours after the commercial aired. That was highlighted by a 1619% spike for the Chrysler 200, according to Edmunds, which was supported during the game with a two-minute spot featuring rapper Eminem.
“Chrysler’s ad reaffirmed the company’s loyalties to Detroit in an emotionally powerful way, and it looks like viewers responded to that message,” Michelle Krebs, senior analyst at Edmunds’ AutoObserver.com, said in a statement.
The General Motors division also experienced increased online interest for three other vehicles supported by Super Bowl spots, albeit drastically smaller than the one for Chrysler 200. The Camaro had a 69% increase, Cruze 63% despite its support from the cast of Glee and the Volt electric car just a 15% bump.
At USA Today's Ad Meter, the Camero spot (with a teacher who gets to max out) was No. 28, Volt was No. 36, Chrysler 200 was No. 44 and the Cruze Glee spot was No. 54
Volkswagen's Beetle had a 271% increase after its "Black Beetle" ad ran and "The Force" commercial led to a 114% online increase at Edmunds.com for the Passat. Hyundai's Elantra experienced a 79% jump but its Sonata Hybrid barely moved the online needle with just a 4% increase. (See full chart below.)
• Kia was parlaying numbers that supported the popularity of its "One Epic Ride" spot (in which a diverse array of people and visitors from other planets go to extremes to get a Kia). According to the car maker, their Super Bowl ad campaign "engaged and entertained more than 106 million people with TV, digital, print and social media activities." However, the spot could do no better than No. 39 on the USA Today Ad Meter.